How was Başak Demirtaş’s candidacy announcement received by the DEM Party and how might it affect cooperation with the CHP?

The announcement by Başak Demirtaş, the wife of former HDP Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtaş, who is currently imprisoned in Edirne Prison, that she might run for Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality came as a surprise to many DEM Party executives.

Ekrem İmamoğlu, IBB Mayor and CHP candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu, said at an opening ceremony on Tuesday that it was not right for him to comment on Başak Demirtaş’s candidacy and said, “This is a matter for the DEM Party to decide. It is not a situation that requires me to comment.”

It is also widely believed that Başak Demirtaş would not make such a statement without her husband’s knowledge.

DEM Party sources told BBC Turkish that Selahattin Demirtaş has conveyed to the party leadership the idea of the party running its own candidate in Istanbul.

The DEM Party is also expected to finalize its electoral cooperation with the CHP this week.

In the March 31 local elections, the DEM Party has completed the pre-selection process and finalized its candidates in the eastern and southeastern provinces where it will compete with its own candidates.

In the western provinces, the DEM Party has kept the doors open for electoral cooperation and has started talks with the CHP, but whether the party will field a candidate in Istanbul is of critical importance for both the government and the opposition.

As the electoral cooperation talks with the CHP are nearing the end, Başak Demirtaş’s statement to journalist İrfan Aktan: “We have not yet received a proposal from the DEM Party for Istanbul candidacy, but if the people want it, if our party deems it appropriate, and if we believe that it will pave the way for democracy and social peace, we can consider it.” made its mark on the agenda.

A surprise for the DEM Party too

In a press conference held at the Parliament, DEM Party Group Deputy Chair Sezai Temelli, in response to a question from journalists, stated that his party has created a pool of candidates in the Western provinces and that the party administration will evaluate this and said, “Of course, it is a good thing that Ms. Başak Demirtaş applied.”

To the question “Was his candidacy a surprise?” Temelli replied, “Yes, it was a surprise for me personally, because I was not aware of it before.”

According to some party executives, Demirtaş’s name was previously mentioned as a “rumor” for Istanbul, but it was not on the agenda or discussed in the party leadership.

For this reason, Başak Demirtaş’s direct declaration of her intention to become a candidate was “not expected”.

‘Demirtaş conveyed the idea of competing with our own candidate’

A party executive told BBC Turkish that Selahattin Demirtaş is of the opinion that the party should run its own candidates in the West and that he has conveyed this view to the party.

For this reason, there is speculation within the party that Başak Demirtaş’s announcement of her candidacy could be a move towards the party’s own candidate in Istanbul.

Party sources, noting the influence of Selahattin Demirtaş on the grassroots, state that Başak Demirtaş’s announcement will have compelling effects on the electoral cooperation in Istanbul and the identity of the candidate.

If the party does not nominate a candidate, the grassroots may react strongly due to the Başak Demirtaş factor, and if the party decides to nominate a candidate, many candidates that were thought to be consensual will have to be reconsidered.

‘We will conduct the discussion independent of Başak Demirtaş’

Some party executives say that Başak Demirtaş is a powerful and important figure and that her request “cannot be ignored”, pointing out that the final decision will be made in the evaluations to be held in the party committees:

“We will definitely conduct the discussion independently of Başak Demirtaş and we will act within the framework of whatever the political and social ground foresees.

“That’s why she can be a compelling factor. If we don’t field a candidate, we can explain to the public why.

“If we decide to field a candidate, the party committees will decide whether this candidate will be Başak Demirtaş or not.”

In response to the question “Can the party committees decide on another name when there is a figure like Başak Demirtaş?”, a party executive told BBC Turkish: “There are stronger figures than her in our candidate pool. A stronger figure than Demirtaş can be nominated, but not a lower profile.”

How will it affect the cooperation talks with CHP?

There is also speculation in political circles as to how Başak Demirtaş’s statement will affect the election cooperation talks with the CHP.

In fact, Demirtaş’s decision has increased the likelihood that the DEM Party will run its own candidate in Istanbul.

CHP Chairman Özgür Özel called Başak Demirtaş’s declaration of candidacy as “a declaration of will of every Turkish citizen to exercise their right to vote and be elected”. and rather criticized the government’s attack on them through the DEM Party.

However, it is stated that the CHP administration will have to make a re-evaluation after this exit.

‘This week it will either end or be tied to cooperation’

According to the information provided by DEM Party members, the “electoral cooperation” talks with the CHP came to an end.

Party sources stating that delegations including CHP Secretary General Selin Sayek Böke, Ankara MP Tekin Bingöl, DEM Party Deputy Co-Chair Rüştü Tiryaki and Antalya MP Saruhan Oluç are conducting talks on where to cooperate, party sources said that the issue will be evaluated in the FMK meetings to be held on Thursday and Friday and added, “This week the decision will be clear. It will either end or be tied to cooperation.”

What do they want from CHP?

In addition to Istanbul and some of its districts, talks with the CHP are being held on electoral cooperation in Izmir, Adana, Mersin, Hatay, Aydın and Antalya.

The decision on whether or not to field a candidate in these areas will be made within the framework of “urban consensus”, taking into account public opinion polls and the suggestions of the party’s base and civil society.

According to public opinion polls conducted by the party administration, 60 percent of those who say “we should run our own candidate” in Istanbul.

DEM Party, which wants to have a say in the city administration in Istanbul, has set a target of reaching the majority to form a group in the municipal council.

It also insists on the joint nomination of the mayoral candidate in some CHP district municipalities, including Adalar and Esenyurt.

A party executive said that the CHP had suggested that they should enter the municipal councils from our list and then leave and switch to your list, and explained their demands as follows:

“We don’t want quotas from CHP lists, because in this case, our voters will vote for CHP again.

“Our proposal to both the left and socialist groups and the CHP is this: For example, in Adalar, it doesn’t matter if he/she is from the DEM Party, let’s make a strong name a candidate, let him/her be nominated from the DEM Party. But the CHP should not run a candidate there either.

“In such a formula, then the base of the DEM Party can also say ‘the alliance makes us win’. Because we can no longer compensate for the feeling that the alliance made us lose.

“Or let’s nominate a strong candidate in Didim, for example a candidate from TİP.”

‘CHP could not be convinced not to field a candidate’
DEM Party sources state that the CHP wants to nominate a candidate everywhere and that they have proposed “Our voters will not vote for you, let them nominate a candidate from our quota”.

Only in Mersin Akdeniz, the CHP has suggested that it could field a low-profile candidate and support the DEM Party candidate.

For this reason, it is interpreted that electoral cooperation with the CHP may be limited, while the DEM Party is preparing as if it will compete with its own candidates on the ground.

While the DEM Party is in favor of supporting the CHP candidate in Mersin, it is more likely to run its own candidates in Ankara, Hatay, Antalya and Aydın.

BBC Turkish